Monday, 7 June 2021

Workwear Denim Lander Pants


Those who follow me on Instagram may have seen that I've been working on perfecting the fit of the Lander pants pattern by True Bias. Two years ago I made this pair of 70s inspired Landers, and whilst they've seen heaps of wear, they just don't fit my post-lockdown-increasingly-middleaged body anymore.

I've really missed having them as an option in my wardrobe, so I decided to 'go back in' and see if I could make another pair with an improved fit for my current shape. Having finally accepted to myself that I could do with a full-tummy adjustment, I did a bunch of research on various methods and made a couple of toiles. I think I've worked out a full-tummy-adjustment-lite method that is a bit of a mish-mash of methods that seems to work for me. 

The other adjustments I made to the pattern included scooping out the front and back crotch a tiny bit, and widening the legs at the hem to create a more exaggerated flare. I used the same pocket templates that I worked out for the previous pair. The denim is some gorgeous, sturdy-but-soft workwear denim from Fabric Godmother. Annoyingly, there's some white lines that appeared after my pre-wash. I'm wondering if I could over-dye them out. I've never figured out how to avoid these, if you have figured it out, I'd be very grateful if you'd drop me a quick email!

But back to the fit for a second. Overall, I'm super happy with how these have turned out. Even though the denim has no stretch, I can actually wear these comfortably all day. Even days that I spent largely sitting down. This is a MAJOR breakthrough for me. There's still some slight pooling of fabric at the top of thae back legs under the bum still, but I wonder if these are necessary to actually bend forward or sit down properly. 

My confidence has been having a bit of a wobble recently regarding my changing body shape, and theoretically, this outfit of slim fitting top and high-waisted jeans is highlighting all the aspects of my body that I currently feel self-conscious about. However, I actually really like how I look in these pictures. yesterday I unexpectedly caught a glance of myself in a mirror whilst wearing this outfit, and again I was happy with what I saw. Are there elements pf my body that I wish were different? Of course. But generally, I'm pleasantly surprised with how I feel in this outfit. I'm guessing that a big chunk of that is that I actually feel physically comfortable, now that there's adequate room for my tum. 

Friday, 4 June 2021

Free Pattern Friday: Kid's Siem Shorts

Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes an adult's one. I publish these posts every first Friday of the month, timed to provide inspiration for those who plan to get their sew on over the weekend. I firmly believe that, if you pick your projects carefully, sewing doesn't have to be a crazy-expensive way to clothe yourself and your family. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

Apologies for the disappearance for Free Pattern Friday for a couple of months, My sewing life and online life get pretty crazy on the run up to and during (Me-Made-)May. But the monthly blog feature is back! I'm excited to road test and write about some fantastic and useful free sewing patterns/tutorials. Today's pattern is one I had my eye on to try for a couple of years. It's a unisex shorts pattern designed for knit fabrics called the Siem shorts pattern (pronounced 'seam', I just had to check!) by Bel'Etoile patterns. Bel'Etoile is a Belgium pattern company, and this pattern is available in Dutch and English. Massive thanks to the designer, Isabel, for sharing this wonderful pattern for free. Let's go...

Pattern type: 

The Siem shorts pattern is a retro style designed for knit fabrics. The pattern consists of three pieces: front, back and waistband. Plus you need binding (preferably stretchy) to finish the edges. These shorts would look awesome on boys and girls, and are the perfect summer staple when paired with a vest or T-shirt. 

Sizing info:

This pattern is graded between a generous 98cm (approx. 3 years) and 164cm (approx. 14 years) which I absolutely love. So often free patterns finish at ages 5 or 6, so it's great to have this pattern to come back to year after year. Lola is currently between two of the sizes, so I chose the larger, size 128. Good thing I did because I made the classic move of assuming seam allowance is included in this pattern. Please don't make the same mistake, take note: SEAM ALLOWANCE IS NOT INCLUDED IN THIS PATTERN! I ended up sewing the seams of these shorts on my overlocker without trimming away any fabric and the resultant fit is fine. 

Fabric info:

Fabric types that are listed as suitable for this pattern include jersey, ponte roma, French terry and sweatshirt knits. This is such a fantastic pattern for using up scraps and leftovers from other projects, so as long as the knit is pretty stable and isn't too light-weight it's probably worth a try. I'd LOVE to make these in a classic retro towelling or velour knit. 

For this pair pictured, I used up some scraps of looped back french terry given to me by byGraziela fabrics leftover from another kid's project that didn't make it to the blog. Another colour way can be found here. I think the retro print design suits the vintage style of garment well. You could have so much fun trying out this pattern with solids, prints and striped fabrics with different bindings. 

Speaking of those, 'stretch bias binding' is recommended for finishing the edges. That's not a common item to find in fabric shops or haberdashers, so you'll likely need to make your own binding, as I did. I used strips of cotton ribbing for both the binding and the waistband. I didn't cut the binding on the bias, because cutting the strips along the DOGS (direction of greatest stretch) is more than stretchy enough, and a more economical use of fabric. 


The pattern and the instructions come in separate PDF files. The pattern is easily obtained via the Bel-Etoile website, with no sign-ups to anything required. I was super happy to find that the pattern file includes the layers function which is great for saving ink, particularly when the pattern is graded to such a generous number of sizes. Remember: seam allowances are not included!!!! Make sure to add them to your pattern pieces before cutting out. 

The instructions document was equally user-friendly. The only thing I felt was missing was some advice on making your own binding. It is an easy enough process to do, but the lack of that step in the instructions may cause a beginner sewer/sewist to have a bit of a head-scratch. 

As for the finished garment, I wasn't sure I would be able to sell them to Lola because A) she prefers wearing skirts or leggings-shorts to actual shorts for some reason, and B) she's decided she doesn't like wearing pink anymore. However, I asked her to try them on to take a couple of pictures this morning and she hasn't taken them off many hours later, so they must be comfortable. She has a tendency to yank elasticated waist garments down and wear them on her hips, so if I make this pattern for her again I'll most likely lower the height of them, particularly at the front because the fabric bunches up a little. 

Customisation ideas:

I don't have many ideas for this one, however you could try:

  • Adding patch pockets to the back
  • Adding front pockets with curved pocket openings and matching bound edges like these 
  • Lengthening or shortening the legs if the wearer has a different preference
  • Applying a cute patch or decal for extra vintage coolness

Would I make it again?

Frankie doesn't need new shorts this summer because I've been busy cutting off the legs from all the joggers and leggings that he's busted through the knees of to make shorts. However, I can't wait to try this pattern for him next year. I've got some stripy towelling in my stash that will look fantastic, I have no doubt! If Lola truly is convinced by this style, I'll happily make her more pairs too. 

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Mini Nova Jumpsuit

I'm going to try a new approach to blogging today. As you might have noticed, I'm publishing blog posts far less frequently these days. Truth be told, taking photos, editing them, writing text, editing it and so on is super time consuming, and I'm really struggling to find the time to do it at the moment. I'm still sewing, still thinking about sewing, but it's not making to the blog very much these days. It's kind of ironic that I'm posting this today as the recent interview I did for the un:CUT podcast about being an OG sewing blogger went out yesterday!

Anyways. As so many of us that used to be frequent bloggers have found, Instagram is just a much quicker medium for sharing sewing projects and other stuff. But I love having this blog as a record and as a wide open space for recording my experiences and thoughts on whatever I fancy (but let's face it, it's mainly sewing!). So today I'm going to post in a new-to-me way: photos of a recent project with very little text. It's not exactly the type of post I'm happiest to produce, but it's better than nothing. And maybe if I take the pressure off of writing detailed entries about each project, I will post here more often. And when there's time, the words will come back too!

So in short: this project is the Mini Nova jumpsuit pattern by True Bias. I made it using some lighter-weight ponte roma that my friend Naida gave me when she was having a clear about about six months ago. It's probably at the thicker end of suitability for this project (hence omitting the waist elastic that Lola would have preferred), but it's worked out pretty well. She reckons it feels like wearing a baby romper, but that didn't stop her from choosing to wear it today. I love how much freedom of movement she has in it. I'll definitely be making more. 

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Free SoZo Undies Sewing Pattern: Updated and Re-released!!!


I am very happy to announce that my free undies pattern that I originally released nine years ago has had a major overhaul and is now newly available! The main three changes are:

  • It's been graded to cover full hip measurements of 32" to 50", that's TEN sizes!!!! This is a major improvement on the original five sizes. A 32" full hip is the average measurement for a 13 year old. I wanted the pattern to cover teen sizing because A) there are very few free sewing patterns (or paid for patterns, for that matter) that cover older children and teens so I wanted to help redress that a little, and B) I hope that this might be a fun project for teens getting into sewing to try for themselves. 
  • Included in the pattern and instructions are two methods of construction: the classic version (as per the original pattern) and the enclosed gusset (AKA the burrito method) version. The classic version is slightly less time consuming and slightly less fiddly to make. However, some people prefer the look of the enclosed gusset version, and it allows for more scrap-busting opportunities. 
  • The instructions are vastly improved with a better layout and much more detail. Each step is illustrated with large colour photos. Also present is lots of information about fold over elastic and how to use it is. For me, the most significant improvement is that the instructions now contain detailed measurements for the elastic required for each size AND an improved method of application which should help you achieve a successful, comfortable fit on your first attempt. I now feel confident calling this a beginner friendly project

Head over to the Free Patterns page to download your pattern files (which are now available in A4/US letter and A2) and instructions file. A lot of time and work have gone into this major overhaul, so if you do decide to give this pattern a download, please consider buying me a coffee whilst you're there. And if you make the pattern and decide to share your creation on social media, please use the hashtag #SoZoUndies so we can check them out! 

I'd like to thank my incredible friend Claire (@clairesews) for generously flexing her impressive digitising skills! Thanks also to Craft and Thift for providing all the fold over elastic for my samples, and the solid fabrics used that I've previously shared on Instagram. Thanks to Fabric Godmother for gifting the leopard print jersey seen in the image above and in the instructions. The cat print jersey is also from there.  

Sunday, 9 May 2021

How to Use Fold Over Elastic (FOE)

This week, all being well, I will be re-releasing my free pants/undies/knickers pattern. It's been expanded and vastly improved, both the pattern itself and the instructions. In the latter, I include a section explaining fold over elastic and how to use it, which may be new to some sewists . I thought that it might also be useful for people if I shared that section here on this blog also to reference, whether you plan to try the free SoZo Undies pattern, another undies pattern or some other project that features fold over elastic. If you decide to use FOE (I'll be using that abbreviation going forwards) for a project with seams stitched using an overlocker/serger, you will need to use a regular sewing machine to apply the FOE. In the case of my undies pattern, it will be applied along the leg hole edges and the waist edge. But let's go back to the beginning...

What is FOE?

Fold over elastic is flat and has a visible line that runs down the centre to help you fold it in half. It can be found in a variety of widths. For my free undies project, I recommend using FOE that is 16mm - 20mm wide when flat. The narrower the elastic, the more fiddly it is to apply. If you are new to using it, try to buy some that is 18mm or 20mm wide and practice before using it on your undies project. 

FOE is available in a whole rainbow of gorgeous colours, shades and textures, and can even be found with patterns printed or woven in. Solid coloured FOE often has one matt and one shiny side, so you can decide which you prefer to be visible.

How to apply FOE:

**If you are new to using FOE, I STRONGLY advise that you have practise applying it to some scrap jersey fabric before working on your undies project. When buying your FOE, remember to order extra for practising if necessary.**

Place a section of FOE down on a surface laying vertically, wrong side up. Position some jersey on top of the left half of the FOE with the raw edge of the jersey sitting along the central line of the elastic. 

Fold the elastic in half so the raw edge is enclosed. You are about to sew through this sandwich to keep it in place with the fabric’s raw edge permanently enclosed. I find it easier to start off my row of stitches by sewing through elastic only before the fabric is introduced into the sandwich, so try leaving a few centimetres of elastic free at the beginning. 

Use as many pins as you feel is necessary to keep this sandwich in place, then position the whole thing under the foot of your sewing machine keeping the fabric to the left. 
You will be sewing through three layers, two elastic, one jersey, so it’s a good idea to select a stronger stretch/jersey needle than would be suitable for sewing the gusset seam/s. I usually use a 90/14 sized needle for the task of applying FOE.

To make sure the elastic and jersey remain stretchy, you need to select a stretch stitch on your machine. I recommend using the three-step zigzag stitch. This stitch is sometimes also called the tricot stitch or the serpentine stitch. It comprises three tiny straight stitches per zig and per zag. The three-step zigzag stitch is commonly used in underwear manufacture, both domestically and industrially, because it allows a lot of stretch but also provides more stability and a flatter finish than a regular zigzag stitch. The only drawback of the three-step zigzag stitch that I’ve found is that those tiny straight stitches make it a real pain to unpick if you make a mistake!

Begin by stitching through both layers of elastic, and then as you get to the jersey, through the elastic-jersey-elastic sandwich, removing the pins as you go. After every few centimetres of stitching, stop and readjust the next section of jersey and FOE as necessary before continuing. 

This is the basic technique for applying FOE. Things get a little trickier in the undies project because we will also be going round the curve of the leg holes, and giving the FOE a little stretch as we stitch. To make these undies, you will be applying FOE that is shorter in length than the measurement of the leg hole edges and waist edge that you’re stitching it to. I will show you how to pin the elastic evenly to the edges. Then you will need to give the FOE a little tug with your right hand as you stitch through the three layers to get a neat result. But get the hang of the basic application technique described above and you’ll be ready to tackle this project!

Why can I buy FOE?

FOE is wildly available at many/most sewing shops and haberdashers. Recently I have used FOE from Craft and Thrift and Plush Addict (both based in UK).

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Me-Made-May 21!

Can you believe it time to talk about another Me-Made-May challenge?! As you may recall, last year I was in two minds about even mentioning MMM because of the stresses and strains that the global pandemic was bringing to most people's lives and head spaces. However, it turns out that a gentle version of the challenge was EXACTLY what so many people found that they needed after all! 

It gave so many of us a reason to put on clothes that made us feel positive, proud and 'ourselves' each morning, rather than staying in pyjamas or chucking on grotty loungewear again. It encouraged us to re-focus a little on our love of garment making, and learn some lessons throughout the month that helped our practice going forwards. And if we chose to participate in the community aspect of the challenge by sharing and/or checking out photos of fantastic handmade garments, it helped us feel connected to other participants at a time when connection was so desperately needed. I'm sure that most participants would agree with me when I say that Me-Made-May 2020 ended up being a wonderful, beautiful, positive little ray of light during a very difficult year. 

And what of 2021? How are we all feeling a year later? We're all clearly so very far from living 'normal' lives still. What role can the Me-Made-May challenge play for the global community of makers this year? I feel that there's a quiet, gentle hopefulness about this year, and participating in MMM could be a wonderful part of that. So much has changed since 2019, and if we choose to, we can use the challenge to explore who we are now, and who we want to be as 2021 continues to unfold...

Personally, I plan to use May 2021 to consciously reconnect with my handmade wardrobe, and subsequently reconnect with myself. I want to enjoy a month-long celebration of creativity with the rest of the beautiful online making community. And I REALLY hope you'll join me. 

What IS Me-Made-May?
  • MMM is a personal challenge to wear your handmade items more often, or in different ways, to help you improve your relationship with your handmade wardrobe. 
  • It is entirely personal: you can set the specifications of your challenge as you wish so that it will help YOU. Think about what you would like to improve and/or learn about what you wear. 
  • You do your challenge for the duration of May.
  • It's entirely up to you whether you wish to keep your challenge entirely to yourself, or share some or all of it with others. If you wish to share the odd (or daily!) photo or comment on social media, please use the hashtag #memademay2021 so other participants can find you and cheer you along.

But what might I gain by taking part?

Depending on the specifics of your pledge, you may discover:
  • which of your current handmade items make you feel the happiest (and therefore perhaps how best to spend your garment-making time in the future)
  • which of them need to be repaired, altered, upcycled or passed on
  • the colours that suit you and the ones that don't
  • new combinations that may help you get more use from the items you've made
  • which silhouettes and garment styles best suit your day-to-day life, as well as your body and personal taste
  • new garment styles, patterns, fabrics, yarns or colours worn by others that you are excited to try for yourself
  • how others wear and style the same patterns you own differently
  • what different fabrics or yarns others have tried when making patterns you own
  • some new online friends
  • some new makers' accounts to follow that inspire you

Ok, I want some of that too, what do I do now?

You need to think about the specifics of your challenge. Think about what you'd like to achieve/improve/learn by the end of the month, and what you can do throughout the month to make that happen. Normally, I ask participants to fill out a pledge and post it in the comments of this post. If you would like to do that, awesome. If you'd like to share it on Instagram or anywhere else, then also awesome:

'I, (insert name or username here), pledge to (insert specifics of your challenge here) throughout May 2021'

So as an example, here's mine:

'I, Zoe aka @sozoblog, pledge to wear only handmade garments in unique combinations as much as possible throughout May 2021'.

If you have any questions or queries, please email me at sozoblog (at) g mail dotcom, or message me on IG @sozoblog. Please remember, if you do want to take part, be as gentle and kind to yourself as possible, in many ways the world is still broken after all. DO NOT beat yourself up if you wake up on 1st May and think, 'actually, no, I want to stay in my non-me-made pyjamas all day after all'!. This is meant to be fun, useful and affirming! 

Please take care of yourselves, lots of love xxx

Sunday, 28 March 2021

The Joy of Sewing for Children: Guest Post on Moonbow Fabrics

I recently wrote a guest blog post for online fabric shop, Moonbow Fabrics, all about why I love to sew kids' clothes. In the post, I discuss the joys of creating with jersey, and the advantages of handmade clothing. If you're on the look out for some fantastic fabric that will appeal to kids of all ages, then visit Moonbow Fabric's site. The donate one item of food to their local foodbank for every order they receive. My current favourite is their exclusive finger puppets print cotton/Lycra jersey. And if you'd like to hear more about my love of sewing kids' clothes, please read on...

I’ve been sewing most of my own clothes and blogging about it for about 13 years now. I had

my daughter seven years ago, and then a little boy a few years after that.

I LOVE sewing clothes for them, as well as for me, and although sewing processes are the

same, no matter the size of the garment, I find that the rewards are slightly different.

Sewing Satisfaction

Watching your kids running around and playing, completely care-free, whilst wearing clothes

that you’ve made, is a really wonderful feeling. I’m not exactly sure why it brings so much

satisfaction and joy, but it does.

The kids don’t even need to be your own. I’ve received just as much satisfaction from

making something for someone else’s child, as long as the garment was appreciated and

actually worn.

Making, Re-using, Recycling

These days, it’s very unlikely that those of us with kids who like to sew for them will make

all of our children’s clothes. My children have always been dressed in a combination of hand-

me-downs, charity shop finds and mum-made garments.

There are times when you fall into the slipstream of another family with an older child, and

the hand-me-down clothes flow steadily in your child’s direction.

However, when that flow slows down or dries up, and gaps in your child’s wardrobe appear,

adding some handmade items can be really pleasing. 

Advantages of Knit Fabrics

Most of the garments I make for my children are from knit fabrics. Comfort and lack of

restriction are my priorities when it comes to their clothing.

Luckily, the kids’ garments that receive the most use/abuse, and are therefore harder to come

by second-hand (I’m looking at you T-shirts, leggings, joggers) take relatively little time and

energy to sew.

I love that there are so many fantastic, fun prints available on kid-friendly base cloths such as

Jersey, French Terry and Sweatshirting.

With a handful of tried-and-tested basic patterns in your arsenal, you can whip up a fabulous-

looking new garment in the space of a nap time or evening. 

And if, like me, your sewing budget is limited and/or you like to consider the environmental

impact of buying new fabric, it’s good to remember that a little can go a long way.

Combining fun printed fabrics with plain/solid fabric within the same project can give a

really cool, unique finished item.

I also often harvest fabric from unwanted adult garments and use up my leftover jersey from

other sewing projects when making kid’s clothes too.

Home-sewn vs Shop Bought

Unlike for previous generations, affordable, mass-produced, children’s clothes are easy to

come by these days. But I invariably find that my handmade contributions, made with care

from good quality fabric, tend to look better for longer.

The fabrics I use don’t rapidly become brittle and scratchy, or start to pill as quickly. Neither

do the colours fade after just a couple of washes. My home-sewn leg and sleeve seams don’t

twist as readily as their factory-made counterparts tend to either.   

Sizing and Fit

And whilst we’re on the topic of comparing shop-bought to handmade, I can’t avoid

mentioning sizing.

My experiences of mass-manufactured kids’ clothes sizing range from confusing to

maddening. What is written on the label frequently bears little resemblance to the actual size

the garment will fit.

Many garment manufacturers seem set on labelling all their products at least one size smaller

than they actually are, and who has the strength or patience to get their kid to try something

on before buying it?!

When we make clothes for our kids, we can take their measurements in the comfort of our

own home (when they are distracted by Peppa Pig perhaps).

By comparing their measurements to the pattern size charts, we have a much clearer idea of

how that garment is going to fit. 

Custom Fitting

Plus once we have their measurements, we can easily combine sizes as necessary for a

custom fit, just as so many adult-garment sewers have to.

For those dressing children with a skinnier or stockier frame than the ‘average’, this can be a

game changer.

When my daughter was a toddler, she was very long and thin. I was able to combine different

sizes for the width and length, thus making her leggings and joggers that both fit properly at

the waist and reached her ankles AT THE SAME TIME. 

Developing Personal Style

My final and favourite reason for sewing my children’s clothing is so I can make things that

align with my children’s personalities and preferences.

For my four-year-old son, that currently means just keeping the fabric within the orange-and-

red spectrum.

However, my seven-year-old daughter already has VERY clear ideas on personal style. These

days, garment projects for her are more of a collaborative effort.

While I must admit that relinquishing complete control of the decisions was hard at first, I am

the first to acknowledge the benefits of bringing kids on-board.

For one, garments are less likely to be rejected when kids get a say in what we make for

them. And secondly, by allowing them choice in the way their clothes turn out, we are

helping them to see themselves as designers, not merely consumers.

I hope that by the time my children become adults, they will be finding fun, escapism, joy

and value in the process of making, whatever form that takes… although sewing is best!

Friday, 5 March 2021

Free Pattern Friday: Kid's Clementine Nightie

Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes an adult's one. I publish these posts every first Friday of the month, timed to provide inspiration for those who plan to get their sew on over the weekend. I firmly believe that, if you pick your projects carefully, sewing doesn't have to be a crazy-expensive way to clothe yourself and your family. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

This pattern has been on my 'Free patterns to try' list for yonks. Designed as a nightie, the Clementine pattern by Sewpony can also be the basis for a great Summer dress (or even colder-weather pinafore if made in a thicker fabric and worn with a top underneath). There was snow on the ground here when I started prepping this project. And even though we're a long way from Summer warmth, I thought other Northern-hemisphere dwellers might also like a dose of warm-weather sewing inspo, and Southern-hemisphere dwellers might have time to squeeze this project in. Thanks heaps to Suz from Sewpony for sharing this pattern for free. It is easily acquired via the checkout on the Sewpony website (no payment required). 

(image source: Sewpony)

Pattern type:

The Clementine nightie (or dress) features a lined bodice with tie straps, and a gathered skirt with optional hem ruffle. There are no fastenings: it pulls on and off over the head. 

Sizing info:

The pattern is graded between 12 months and 12 years, equating to 80cm to 152cm in height. There is no layer function to avoid printing out sizes that you don't need. However, you can avoid printing unnecessary pages by only printing the ones that include the bodice and strap pieces, and using the measurements in the instruction document to draw the skirt and ruffle pieces directly onto the fabric.  

Going my the height of my model, I used the size 8 pattern pieces for my first version (the coral one). It came out wayyyyyy too big, however that does have a lot to do with my fabric choice (see below). 

Fabric info:

This pattern could be suitable for a wide range of fabrics, including most lightweight wovens and knits. I love that Sewpony recommend using an old duvet cover to make it, which would be lovely and soft if it's been well used and washed multiple times. 

I didn't have any suitable woven fabrics in my stash, so I turned to some very lightweight, very slinky jersey instead. I'd been scratching my head over what I should use this jersey for for at least eight years ever since my lovely friend Claire gave it to me. It's super thin so would most likely highlight lumps and bumps, but because the bodice of the Clementine is lined, I thought it just might work for this. As you can see, the finished garment ended up very wide and the armholes are very deep. I feel that the pattern should have included the suggestion to size down if using a knit, particularly those with quite a lot of stretch. 

This pattern would also be very sweet if made up in a needlecord or denim and worn as a pinafore.


As with every Sewpony pattern I've tried, the instructions and the pattern itself were a joy to use. Both are so clear and unfussy, with just the right amount of explanation included in the instructions. A beginner with a couple of previous sewing projects under their belt would have little trouble following along. 

As I mentioned above, my coral version ended up way too big. It's possible that my slinky is on the outer limits of suitability, but I also feel that sizing down if using knits should be recommended. However, it did feel that the slinky jersey did look really good in the gathered skirt and ruffle by providing fantastic drape and movement. 

I decided to try another slinky jersey version because I've been trying to find a use for my scraps and leftovers of that type of knit. I sized down two sizes but kept the bodice length the same as the size 8. I also raised the armholes by about 3cm. I wanted more drama for this version, so lengthened both the skirt and ruffle pieces at bit, but kept the widths the same. I cut sections of knit (observing the grainlines as far as I could) of differing widths but the same length which I seamed together to form the skirt and ruffle. I think the result is pretty awesome and I've busted a masses amount of my slinky jersey scraps by making this dress. Dolores loves it, however, she does liken it to something Cinderella might be found in!

Customisation ideas:
  • Experiment with shortening or lengthening the bodice, skirt and/or ruffle pieces to create different looks and proportions.
  • Create a V at the neckline on the front and/or back.
  • Use three different fabrics, one each for the bodice, skirt and ruffle. A tonal effect would look amazing!
  • Shorten the skirt piece a lot and omit the ruffle to make a peplum top (I plan to try this).
  • Make it in needlecord or denim and add cute patch pockets to the skirt, or even one on the front of the bodice.

Would I make it again?

Absolutely! I definitely want to try making a peplum top based on my adapted version of this pattern. I can also see other versions for sleep and day wear, it's a great basic shape. 

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Josie Bra Experiment

Bras. The final frontier. Well, MY final frontier, anyway. I've been sewing for over twenty years, making my own clothes for about thirteen, yet until this weekend I had never made a bra. Catherine from Clothes and Sewing blog (sorry, can't find the link ATM) even challenged me to make a bra a couple of years ago! (And who can resist a challenge?!) Yet, I still hadn't made one. 

Let me explain why. You see, my body has been through two pregnancies and breastfed two babies (the second one for 19 months). My once-pretty-nice-if-I-say-so-myself boobs are now somewhat deflated. They need structure to give them a decent shape, and to keep them from resting on my stomach! Having tried a few different RTW bra styles, I always end up going back to basically the same style of bra from M&S. It's a super plain, T-shirt bra with underwires and moulded foam cups. My boobs seem to have specific requirements so I never thought I could sew myself a decent bra that would give me a good fit and be comfortable. At least not without spending a lot of time, effort and money on several failed attempts first. But the fact that this post includes photos of a bra on my dress form would indicate that something changed my mind and I have, in fact, made my first bra. 

(image source: Made My Wardrobe)

Over lockdown I noticed that my regular bras were cutting in to me in various places and just don't feel as comfortable as they used to. I'm not sure if they always felt like this and lockdown has just made me super sensitive to anything uncomfortable, or if my body has changed in some way. Certainly my bras are no longer brand new, but if anything, I expect age would make them looser and I'd feel them less rather than more

I love the Made My Wardrobe patterns, and I started eyeing up the beautiful, comfy-looking, jersey confections made using the Josie bra (and pants) pattern. I always thought that jersey-type bras (rather than moulded foam type bras) were for women with smaller, perter busts. However, some of her models are full-busted and look quite supported in the images (see above). Then Lydia, owner/designer of Made My Wardrobe, announced a free workshop supporting the pattern and it just felt like the stars were aligning for me to make a damn bra...

Fabric and haberdashery:

Made My Wardrobe stock some beautiful kits including everything you need to make a lacy bra and pants set. However, I couldn't justify shelling out for the whole set when I wasn't entirely convinced this plan was going to work out. Then a recent sort out of my jersey scraps led me uncover some really thick, stable jersey leftover from some jogging leggings I made a while ago. If ever there was a jersey that could give my saggy boobs sufficient support, I felt that it was this stuff! The Josie pattern can be made with a combo of jersey and lace, or jersey alone. I'm not massively into lacy undies, so taking the more simply jersey-only option whilst using what I already had suited me fine. 

Several months ago, I bought some lovely teal/peacock coloured fold over elastic from Plush Addict whilst I was ordering my rainbow webbing. I've been really happy with their FOE in the past, and wanted to make my webbing order more worth the postage. I ordered the metal ring and bra closure from Made My Wardrobe whilst buying the PDF version of the pattern. 

Pattern and workshop:

Having never made bras before, I was super interested to discover what all the pattern pieces looked like and how they went together. This particular bra pattern consists of just four pattern pieces, including a choice of narrower or deeper under band. The narrower option fastens with a hook and eye bra closure; the deeper is simply seamed together to form the band. I knew the deeper option wouldn't work with my high natural waist, plus I wanted the adjustability of the bra closure. As well as the under band options, whether or not you use lace and which type of elastic you go for all combined gives you the ability to make heaps of different variations from the same pattern. 

I never usually take part in sewalongs or follow online pattern workshops, at least not at the time that they are released.  However, I felt that the timing of this one was auspicious, so even when Lydia had to delay the workshop by a couple of weeks, I prevented myself from jumping ahead and did another little sewing project whilst I waited for it to begin. The workshop is free (you can make a donation) and is still available to access via the website . It's split into four parts and was released over four days. For me, the most useful section was the first where she demonstrated the various techniques for applying fold over and plush/picot elastics. I'm no stranger to either, but it was interesting to learn a new-to-me application method.

For my bra, I used only fold over elastic (rather than plush elastic or a combo of the two), and I ended up having to unpick parts where applying the FOE (which is wider than plush/picot) was causing problems. For example, the front strap pattern pieces just seemed too narrow to be able to stitch the FOE to both sides as per the method described in the video and pattern instructions. I was able to fudge it a bit and it looked ok in the end. 

The videos are beautifully produced, and Lydia talks through the steps in a clear and relaxed way. It was all very visually appealing and inspiring. There were a couple of times when I wished she'd have gone into a little more detail, and I found not being able to ask questions during the video frustrating! Plus, it would also have been good to have got some really clear, close-up shots of the pieces after some of the steps and technique demos. But it really was nice to feel the additional support of the designer as you embarked on the project. 

The bra itself came together surprisingly quickly, and before long I had a finished item in my hands. I feel that some of the steps could have used a bit more explanation, for example, what to do if you find the ends of the under band too wide for your bra closure. But it you've been sewing for a while, you can probably figure out some solutions yourself. After an initial trying on session, I went back and made a couple of adjustments. I unpicked the bra closure on both sides and reduced the length of the under band by 1cm at each end to make it tighter. I also shortened the front straps by a small amount to make it feel more supportive.

Thoughts and result:

It probably doesn't need pointing out, but this dress form in no way resembles my actual body, so the fit on this dress form is very different to how it looks on my body. I'm not really loving my body very much at the moment, and I didn't feel comfortable modelling the bra myself and having pictures of it on the interwebs. So I'm sorry that I was unable to give potential-Josie bra makers a more accurate idea of how it might look on an actual person. 

Well, after my first 'bra-making-journey', did I end up with a wearable bra? No. Sadly, I didn't. I wore it all Sunday, and aside from the initial vague discomfort that I reckon is caused by simply wearing a new shape of bra, the shape of it just isn't right for my boobs. As I mentioned at the top, my boobs are a bit deflated from breast feeding, and a bit 'spongey' compared to their previous fullness. The front edge of the straps/cups pushes along each boob, giving a kind of double-boob effect that neither looks nor feels nice. If I had applied the elastic more loosely along these edges, they wouldn't give me sufficient support, so I must conclude that this shape just doesn't work for the boobs that I'm currently sporting. It's also worth noting that the straps sit closer to your neck than most bras, which means the straps will be visible if you are wearing a top that doesn't have a tight crewneck or high neck.  

However, I DID love making it! My IRL sewing pal, Naida, is obsessed with making bras and I now see why. She's tipped me off to some other patterns that might work better for my shape, so when I have sufficient funds, I think I'll dive in again and hopefully have something useful at the end of it. So even though this bra didn't work out, I got the first non-functioning bra under my belt that I always predicted that I'd have to make, and it didn't cost too a lot in time and money. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Rainbow Raspberry Rucksack

I bought the Raspberry Rucksack pattern by Sarah Kirsten at the beginning of 2020. However, the rest of the year took all the unexpected turns that we know about now, and my sewing plans didn't follow the route that I thought they would! In fact, it took me so long to actually get round to making the pattern, that I ended up being one of those annoying people who had to contact the seller because they had lost the download link! 


I finally did get round to making the Raspberry rucksack after two years' worth of intense daily use of my Range backpack. It had got so tatty, faded and misshapen that I was getting pretty embarrassed to be seen with it! I don't embarrass easily when it comes to what I wear, so I knew it was definitely time to make a replacement. I fell in love with the Raspberry rucksack pattern the instant I saw it, and have loved every version I've seen on Instagram since. The pattern's similarity to the Kanken bags by Swedish company Fjallraven cannot be denied. I've admired those for many a year also, and the opportunity to make something similar for myself without having to work out how to do so on my own was an opportunity too good to pass up.

(image source: Sarah Kirsten)

The Raspberry rucksack pattern, like the Range backpack pattern and every other 'proper' bag pattern I've encountered, is really involved. There are a lot of pieces to cut out (from outer, lining and interfacing fabrics), extras like special hardware and zips to procure, and lots of construction steps to undertake. It's a meaty project, not a quick win. But if you're up for that and not in any particular rush to use your new bag, then it can be a really enjoyable challenge. 

The constructing the front 'pop' pocket (which is fully lined, FYI), and then stitching it to the front panel were possibly the trickiest steps. There are so many layers involved, and with a domestic machine, it was a struggle at times. And even after the pocket was attached, the pages of construction steps kept on coming and at many points it felt like the end would never be in sight!

What I did enjoy was learning some new tricks. The Sarah Kirsten blog includes a few very detailed posts which support the pattern, and I whole heartedly recommend reading them before you embark on the project. One of them taught me a lot about zips, including how to turn a regular, double-ended zip into a bag zip. In short, you cut off one end and remove one of the zip pulls, turn it up the other way and pull it back on. This felt very risky, especially considering I had had to wait a long time for my zips to arrive in the post, but it worked perfectly (after a couple of attempts) and it kind of blew me away! 

Another new-to-me element to this project was using webbing for the straps and handles. My previous 'real' bag projects involved straps that I'd sewn from fabric. I found working with the webbing really fun and I love the result. 

Fabric and haberdashery:

A complicated backpack isn't usually the first project that pops to mind as a fabric scrap-buster. However, I had the leftovers of the rust cotton twill that I used for my Thelma boiler suit ear-marked for a bag almost as soon as the cutting out of the boiler suit pieces was complete. The Raspberry rucksack pattern includes dimensions for two different sizes of bag. I wanted to make a larger one as it'd be more practical, but I was willing to size down if my fabric was of insufficient quantity. Thankfully, I had more than enough for the larger one, and in fact there is more twill left than I'm thinking I'll use for a sun hat for someone. 

The lining I used for the rucksack is making me very happy indeed. It was a length of quilting cotton that I bought from the Village Haberdashery on the last day that I taught there before giving birth to my little boy (so about 4.5 years ago). Initially, I had planned to make myself a blouse from it, but my tastes shifted before that could happen and it's languished, unused in my stash ever since. I still adore the print design and its colours, I just could no longer see myself wearing it as a garment. So it's great to be able to see and enjoy it regularly, every time I open my bag.

I'd like to be able to take credit for the inspired choice of rainbow webbing, but I cannot. I had been debating what colour webbing to choose that would work well with the rust, and I almost bought some teal cotton webbing on a trip to Brighton, but held back for some reason. A little later, I saw an online ad pop up for Fjallraven bags featuring an orange one with rainbow webbing and my heart skipped a beat. I sourced my rainbow webbing from Plush Addict, who stock a range of widths, and I LOVE how its turned out. I never would have thought that clear rainbow colours would work with a muted tone like rust, but I think it looks awesome. My only regret is that I couldn't source cotton rainbow webbing (this one is polypropylene), but at least this won't soak up the rain. 

My zips came from Zipper Station, who stock a broad range of lengths and styles, and have excellent customer service. The reason I had to wait a while for their arrival was because I ordered them on Christmas eve in a pandemic! Another order from them arrived only a day or two after I placed it. I planned to use my fave bag hardware purveyor, U-handbag, for my slider and rectangle ring, but they were out of stock of my first choice (silver coloured metal) for one of them. I ended up getting plastic versions from a seller on eBay, which worked out well as they make the bag lighter than the metal ones would have.   


Thankfully, after the marathon make, I'm really happy with the look of the finished bag. It feels a bit lighter and flimsier than I was expecting though, which I think is partly due to using webbing rather than fabric for the straps. Also, I guess that the twill fabric isn't as stiff as the fabric used for Fjallraven bags, although I really don't think my sewing machine could have handled anything more robust. As you can see from the photo of the bag on my dressform, it sags and doesn't hold its shape when not completely stuffed. The front handle also flips down. I considered making one of those little loops held together with press studs which keep handles together, but honestly I don't think I care that much. 

Another big takeaway: Scotch Guard spray is excellent! I found a can in the cupboard under the sink and used it on this bag the night before we took a trip out whilst it was snowing, and the bag remained completely dry. Why didn't I use this stuff before? All those school and nursery runs in the rain where my bag and its contents got completely soaked could have been avoided! 

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